Monday, November 30, 2020

The Lost Portrait of Charles Dickens

In 1843, Charles Dickens sat for a portrait by the English painter Margaret Gillies. At the time, the author’s career seemed to be ebbing. After the spectacular success of Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, and Nicholas Nickleby, readership for Martin Chuzzlewit was not only disappointing, it was actually declining with each succeeding installment in the series. His family was growing, and they had just moved from 48 Doughty Street to #1 Devonshire Terrace, across from Regent’s Park (and a step up from the earlier address). 

He was working almost feverishly on another project, but his publisher insisted that he share the costs of the expensive binding and illustrations he wanted to use. The project had begun as a treatise on the treatment of children in Victorian London’s slums, but Dickens had quickly realized it would have a greater impact as a story. So, while sitting for his portrait, the 31-year-old author was working to finish A Christmas Carol.


Gillies, the painter, loved the portrait, so much, in fact, that she exhibited it at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1844. A steel engraving was made of the painting and reproduced many times. But, after the exhibition, the painting vanished. It would reappear until more than 173 years had passed, and when it did, it was in South Africa. It showed up with other materials meant for auction; at first, no one realized what it was. It was also showing signs of mold, a sure sign it had been left in someone’s attic or cellar and forgotten. 


The identification was finally made and confirmed, and the painting restoration, has made its way to the Charles Dickens Museum in London. Charles Dickens: The Lost Portrait is the short, 52-page account of the painting’s creation and rediscovery, including some educated speculation as to how it made its way from London to South Africa, likely in the 1850s or 1860s. 


The short book includes several essays. The English art dealer Philip Mould, who played a critical role in the painting’s return to England, introduces the book. Emma Rutherford describes how the portrait was painted. Lawrence Hendra provides the informed speculation on the painting’s provenance and how it likely went to South Africa. Lucinda Dickens Hawksley provides an overview of what was going on in Dickens’s life in the 1840s. And Louisa Price provides an interesting discussion of related objects in the Dickens Museum collection that help explain the man’s life.


If you’re a fan of Dickens, as I’ve confessed many times to be, or if you’re interested in painting, portraits, and art mysteries, Charles Dickens: The Lost Portrait is a fascinating story. 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Open, mind

After Luke 24:44-49

It didn’t begin
with an open mind,
plural; the open minds
weren’t the first impulse
or prime mover.
the open mind, plural,
required an act,
a command, as in 
“Open, mind(s),”
a deliberate move,
full of purpose 
and import, a cranking
open of the door, replete
with shrieking creaks,
so that understanding
was possible. The door
was opened to allow
the light to enter,
to enable the dispelling
of confusion,
of darkness.

Photograph by Roan Lavery via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Saturday Good Reads

In June of 1939, the parents of seven-year-old Lotte Berger made the agonizing decision to send their daughter to safety. From Vienna, Lotte was sent to England via the Kindertransport, the effort to save as many Jewish children as possible. She landed with a family that was part of the Bruderhof community. In 1941, because of their German connections, those communities were ordered to leave England or be interned. Three other Kindertransport children living with her were returned to relatives; Lotte’s parents, who could still be contacted, said to take her as far away from Hitler as possible. Norann Voll at Plough tells Lotte’s story 

Because of COVID-19, schools have been closed, reopened, and closed for six months. What is this doing to children? The answers are beginning to arrive, and they aren’t good. Lisa Miller at The Cut has the story of an Oregon neuroscientist who’s been studying the effects of isolation on the development of young children. 


David Warren is a Canadian, living in Toronto, who tends to be a bit of a contrarian about politics in Canada and the country south of the Canadian border he calls the Natted States.  (He also refers to the news media as the “medjuh” and COVID-19 as the “Chinese batflu.” A recent post took a step in a different direction. It’s short, simple, and strikes you silent, not nmatter what your politics might be. Read “A Threesome.” 


More Good Reads


Life and Culture


Markets and the Strangulation of the American Family – Gracy Olmstead at Mere Orthdoxy.


Highly Qualified: What Does Liberalism Even Mean Anymore? – The Dandy.


Remembering Who We Are: The Conservative’s New Fight – Kay Clarity at The Imaginative Conservative.


A Woke Analysis – Andrew Gardner.




Has the Childhood Home of Jesus Christ Actually Been Found in Nazareth? – Ed Whelan at Ancient Origins.




At the End of the Day – Kerry Darbishire at Ice Floe Press (H.T: Paul Brookes). 


Refuge – Sarah Klassen at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin).


A poem called Anxiety – Aaron Smith at Cultural Savage.


Northern Lake – George David Clark at Literary Matters.


Where Are the Leaves? – Jeff Kemper at Society of Classical Poets.


The Web – Katie Peterson at Literary Matters.




The Government Says We Can’t Sing. What Should We Do? (A Forum) – Jonathan Leeman at 9Marks.


The Church: A Dwelling Place for God – Nate Shurden at Tabletalk.


A Day of Reckoning: Victorian Government pushes to ban Christian practices with threat of 10 years in prison – Murray Campbell at Ideas about & for Melbourne.




The Hotel at the Heart of the Hudson River School – Rebecca Rego Barry at Lapham’s Quarterly.


Hunt still on for a Van Gogh self-portrait lost deep in a salt mine during the Second World War – Martin Bailey at The Art Newspaper.


American Stuff


Drunks and democrats – Vaughn Scribner at Aeon Magazine.


Writing and Literature


Why I Write: Thoughts on Joy and Obedience – Benjamin Vrbicek at Fan and Flame.


News Media


Matt Drudge Logs Off – Armin Rosen at Tablet Magazine.


Faithful God – I Am They

Painting: Portrait of a Young Woman Reading, oil on canvas (1924) by Dean Cornwell (1892-1960).

Friday, November 27, 2020

My words

After Luke 24:44-49

A reminder and
an instruction:
you heard this 
before, during
those three years
we walked the land
and talked the land,
the geography of faith,
so what you hear now
is nothing novel,
nothing new, it was
all written before,
in the law,
in the prophets,
in the psalms,
and it must all
be fulfilled. And
you were there,
you saw it,
you lived it:
the word, my words,
the words that
became flesh and
walked the land and
talked the land and
it happened right here,
right now, my words
I spoke to you
while I was
still here.

Photograph by Julia Joppien via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

"Prove It: Murder in the Mix" by Hannah Kurz

Stephanie Yu and her husband Henry have just welcomed a newborn daughter into their family. They live in an apartment above a bakery called The Likable Daisy in a city like Syracuse or Buffalo in New York, whose goods Stephanie has a very difficult time resisting. The Yus know the bakery owner and employees as well as the other apartment residents in the building.  

She’s has taken maternity leave, and she’s debating with herself whether or not she wants to return to her job as a graphic designer. Her days are filled with nursing the baby, resuming something of a normal life after the pregnancy, and figuring out how to deal with her hypercritical mother-in-law.


Sameed Haddad is the bakery’s owner, and he’s considered something of a wayward member of his devout Muslim family. He’s even in the midst of a divorce from his wife, who’s non-traditional Muslim herself. Early one morning, arriving to open the bakery, the chief baker discovers Sameed’s body in the kitchen.


Hannah Kurz

Everyone including the police think it’s an accident; it appears Sameed’s tie was caught in a mixer and strangled him. Everyone, that is, except Stephanie, who can’t accept the accident theory. She has an uphill struggle to convince anyone, but she keeps at it. And eventually even the police take another look. And this time they decide it’s murder.


Prove It: Murder in the Mix by Hannah Kurz is the first in the Likable Daisy series of mysteries, one that falls into the “cozy” mystery category. The second is a work in progress that Kurz is writing with her husband. She lives with her family in western New York. 


The story builds slowly, with as much initial focus on Stephanie being a new mother as there is on the mystery of the man’s death. But it builds toward an eminently satisfying conclusion. This graphic designer / new mother deserves kudos for seeing what everyone else around misses and stubbornly pursuing what she knows is the truth.




Hannah Kurz talks The Cozy Sleuth about her book and writing

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

"Hoping for Hawthorne" by Tara Grace Ericson

Avery Chase has returned home from Colorado. Fifteen years before, her family moved from Terre Haute, Indiana, to Colorado. Avery left behind several good girlfriends in the Bloom family, and one major crush, Hawthorne Bloom, four years older and generally oblivious of his sisters’ young friend. She’s back because she’s been hired to teach chemical engineering at the local university. 

Hawthorne is now 33. He works as a handyman helper on his parents’ farm outside Terre Haute. Most of his six sisters live there as well, each managing a specific area of the farm. For years, Hawthorne has avoided taking major responsibility for anything, after the failure of his high-flying startup, dismissing fourteen employees, and having everything sold to pay debts. He’s got a major case of no self-confidence, and he spends his free time with his drinking buddies. 


A chance encounter between Avery and Hawthorne at a bar sets in motion a chain of events. Hawthorne finds himself smitten; Avery finds the old attraction revving back up. But can Hawthorne step up to taking on more responsibility? And can Avery get over an old romance in Colorado that went nowhere?


Tara Grace Ericson

Hoping for Hawthorne
 by Tara Grace Ericson is a novella that introduces the Bloom Sisters series of romance stories (there are five, with likely two more to go). It’s a sweet, intelligent story, with a heroine who doesn’t fit the usual mold of romance novels – she’s a chemical engineer and a professor – and a hero who’s struggling with what may be self-imposed guilt and can’t get past it.


In addition to the Bloom Sisters series, Ericson has published five stories in the Main Street Minden series and several in the Heroes of Freedom Ridge series. An engineer by education and career, she lives with her family in Missouri.


Hoping for Hawthorne is a thoroughly enjoyable story, well-written and well-plotted, with real-life characters that bring the story to life.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

New Review of "Poetry at Work"

U.K. poet James Sale has posted a review of Poetry at Work at Amazon UK. Here’s what he had to say.

“There are at least two reasons why this is an important book on poetry, as relevant now as when it was published some 6 years ago. First, Glynn Young realises that over the last 30 years poetry has been hijacked by academics; it’s no longer a poetry by the people for the people. Rather, every second poet you hear about nowadays is Professor X or Dr Y doing research on language somewhere you have never heard of. This is pernicious as it has created a cartel of influence in which the ‘experts’ congratulate each others’ books, but in reality very few people are reading them. Why would they? I cannot think of any academic poet of the last 30 years who has written one poem that stands comparison with Robert Frost’s ‘Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.’ 

“The thing about poetry is that it is not written by ‘experts’ – its origin is very different. Which leads on to the second reason why Young’s book is so important. If poetry is highly unlikely to be found in academia, where is it to be found? The answer of course is that it will be found in real life, and more specifically, as Young shows, at work. What Young does is re-examine how poetry is everywhere around us, and that it is the poet’s at work who have so much to contribute. That said, as Young observes, ‘Poets, if they remain creative, can find themselves as road kill on the organisational highway.’ It would be good to see these ideas developed further and not allowed to remain fallow; poetry deserves to be widely disseminated and read, and this will never happen so long as the ‘academics’ have it ‘in thrall’. Read this book – it’s worth it.”

Poets and Poems: Arran James Grant and "Mania"

You’ve heard of coming-of-age novels. British poet Arran James Grant may have written a coming-of-age poetry collection. 

As I was reading his recently published Mania, I kept thinking to myself that these are the poems of a young man. And they clearly are, with many of the 52 poems about love and relationships. But Mania is also a bit more than that. It’s a collection of poetry by a young man who knows he’s writing about the experiences of being a young man. The poems have a deliberateness, a self-consciousness that tells you they aren’t only poems about love but poems about looking back and understanding what’s happened. 


To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Three New Dark Stories by Glenn McGoldrick

The Teesside region of northeastern England is tucked between York and Newcastle-on-Tyne. It’s an old manufacturing area, and it’s the setting for a series of short stories by British author
 Glenn McGoldrick. I should say dark short stories, where a criminal mind or criminal activity is always just below the surface, people do the unexpected, and life if full of twists and turns. Three recent stories show how. 

In Small Town, Abbie Gordon is a young woman nearly beside herself over a series of small animal killings, including her cat Mr. Tibbets. She’s so upset that she begins to ask around, and she learns that other animals have been and are being killed. She’s determined to find the culprit, and she begins to distribute small posters all over town. But it’s a small town, and sometimes you might become a bit too successful.


The narrator of Next Lover is more than a bit crass. He starts his story with “I needed a new partner, as things were getting a bit stale with Sarah.” You think you know what he’s talking about, until the “things” turn out to be stagings of attempted robberies, usually in car parks, which lead to something more sinister. 


The Wrong House to Burgle is a story of revenge, or perhaps karma. A thief burgles a house, not knowing that it’s the house of an experienced criminal. It’s never nice to pick the wrong house of someone who knows how to find you. 


Glenn McGoldrick

Writing since 2013, McGoldrick specializes in short stories. He’s worked for both land-based casinos and cruise ships for a time, basing many of his stories on those experiences. His stories are dark, gritty, often involve a twist, and inevitably open insights into the human psyche. And his characters run the gamut of good, bad, and something in between, and often find themselves moving far beyond the boundaries of acceptable behavior. He lives in northeastern England. 


Reading these dark Teesside stories, you feel like you may have just stepped into a criminal version of The Twilight Zone. You’ll find yourself wondering how many appearances are deceiving, and you’ll be looking over your shoulder to see who may be behind you.





“Six Down,” “Somewhere in England,” and “Dark Progresion” by Glenn McGoldrick.


 4 Stories by Glenn McGoldrick.


3+ Stories by Glenn McGoldrick.


Five Mysteries: 2 Short Stories, 2 Novellas, and a Long Story.


The Dark Stories of Glenn McGoldrick.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Hands and feet

After Luke 24:36-43

They see, they touch,
they doubt.
He sees the doubt.
Why, he says, why
this doubt. See
my hands. See
my feet.
(Why point them
To his hands and feet?”
(His hands and feet
bear the marks, 
the testimony.)
Touch me, and see,
They see, they touch,
they doubt and disbelieve
even as the joy
begins to bubble up,
even as the marvel
begins to seize them,

And to prove his point,
he asks the normal.
Anything to eat?
Some fish?

The world is turning
upside down,
right before them,
right inside their hearts.

Photograph by Cristian Palmer via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Saturday Good Reads

We’ve been reading about art museums “deaccessioning” some of the artworks they own to raise funds for both operational expenses and to acquire other kinds of art (and the word “other” in that sentence is a loaded one). The trend isn’t confined to art museums; Alexander Larman at The Critic Magazine has taken note of an upcoming auction of books from the library at Rugby School in England. If you’re in the market for a signed first edition of A Christmas Carol, a letter by Siegfried Sassoon expressing his opinions on his fellow World War I war poets, and an early folio of Shakespeare, you may have found the place to be.  

Poet James Sale is writing an epic poem in English, a work inspired by John Milton and especially Dante. He’s written an essay for The Epoch Times, in which he commends the reading of Dante to provoke thinking. It comes down to truth, and whether or not Dante’s great epic The Divine Comedy is a true account. 


Writing coach Ann Kroeker served as the editor of my non-fiction book Poetry at Work. She posts regularly about writing and writers, and she had an article this week that discusses reading like a writer, and the four aspects of it. She punched my own button on each one. 


More Good Reads




Is abuse more prevalent in the church today than in the past? – Stephen McAlpine.


Loss – Susan Lafferty (Hat Tip: Tim Challies). 


The Marriage Mentality – Yolonda Tonette Sanders at Urban Faith.


But When Will I Be a Man, Sir? – A.W. Workman at Entrusted to the Dirt.


Life and Culture


The “Shy Trump Voter” is a Suburban Woman – Kelsey Bolar at The Federalist. 


A Short and Glorious Reign (of a Rooster) – Brian Miller at The South Roane Agrarian.


A Quiet Totalitarian Revolution – Rod Dreher at Real Clear Books.


Jacques Barzun’s 1937 Critique of Race-Thinking – Josh Pauling at Front Porch Republic.


Cultural Guerilla Warfare – Stewart McAlpine. 

Where have all the Orators gone? - Nigel Jones at The Critic Magazine.


British Stuff


Masters of Stone: The Medieval Stonemasons – E.M. Powell at English Historical Fiction Authors.




Love of Mine – Brendan Tobias Behan.


God sent easter – Lucille Clifton at Kingdom Poets (D.S. Martin). 


Scene Change – Will Harris at Literary Hub.


The Genius of Wordsworth – Algis Valiunas at First Things Magazine.


Writing and Literature


Love, According to E.B. White – Brianna Lambert at Mere Orthodoxy.


Thousands Upon Thousands of Words Later: A Personal Reflection on Writing – Bradley Birzer at The Imaginative Conservative. 


Murder for the onset of shorter days: the British Library Crime Classics – Jeremy Black at The Critic Magazine.


The Flying Train (1902)

Painting: A Man Reading a Newspaper, oil on panel by Job Adriaensz. Berckheyde (1630-1693). 

Friday, November 20, 2020

Bam! Shazam! Pow!

After Luke 24:36-43

They’re talking about
these events, this man,
wondering if this could be
true: that he was alive.
Bam! Shazam! Pow!
He’s there, among them,
and says, prosaically,
peace be with you.
Peace? Are you kidding?
Shock, fear, turmoil, yes;
like seeing a specter,
a ghost, yes. But peace?
They know he died;
they know he died
because they saw it,
witnessed it, saw 
the last gasps, felt
the earthquake, saw
the sky split open.
But they touch him,
and he’s real.

Photograph by Dan Meyers via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

"Where Every Man" by Charlie Garratt

It’s the late winter and early spring of 1940. James and Rachel Given have moved from England to a small town in Brittany. James has been a policeman, but he’s left the force; too much reality and too much evil that always seemed to find new life. They’re now working and living on a farm, helping the farmer with planting and sales in the weekly market. 

France is at war with Nazi Germany, but the war still seems far away. James has been asked by MI5 to keep an eye on anything that might look like German fifth column activity. He sends his disguised reports to a stamp collecting store in Paris. And for a time, things are quiet. James and Rachel even start attending the local Catholic church; they’re both Jewish, and they have false identity papers that might get them out of immediate trouble if the Germans come but won’t last much beyond that.


Then the town librarian dies in what may or may not have been a suspicious accident. The local policeman and the mayor prefer it to be an accident, but James himself isn’t sure. His wife urges him to look into it. And then he learns that the librarian is a former MI5 agent and that she had come across something, or someone, that might be an enemy agent. 


Charlie Garratt

A man from outside the area has taken a room in town and been asking questions about local military bases. He’s found with his throat slit, but the murderer may have been local patriots or another enemy agent. With local police approval, James slowly plows through the case, helped by a teenaged girl who takes violin lessons with Rachel. And all the time the threat of invasion is growing.


Where Every Man by British writer Charlie Garratt is the story of James, Rachel, and the French village where they live. The author does a fine job of slowly building suspense, creating a number of possible suspects, and using the menace of the war to underscore the tension. And he makes the narrative personal for James by locating close relatives some 30 miles away, an uncle, aunt, and cousin who have already fled the Nazis once and now face having to do it again.


Garratt is the author of three previous Inspector Given mysteries, including A Shadowed LiveryA Pretty Folly, and A Patient Man. He also published several community participation guides, until he retired and began writing short stories. One of those stories led to his first novel, A Shadowed Livery. He lives in Shropshire in England.


Where Every Man is a solid mystery and a suspenseful tale of World War II.